"I've just lived every kid's Stanley Cup dream."
- Ottawa Senators center Kyle Turris, who scored the overtime-winner in Game 4 against the New York Rangers to tie the series 2-2.
"I've just lived every kid's Stanley Cup dream."
- Ottawa Senators center Kyle Turris, who scored the overtime-winner in Game 4 against the New York Rangers to tie the series 2-2.
The Calgary Flames pick is off to a sizzling start in his NCAA career and already has a world junior gold medal. Meet him and other future NHLers in our weekly wrap
Talk about program building. Penn State was ranked No. 1 in the NCAA by one of two national polls this week – pretty remarkable since the Nittany Lions didn’t even have a Division 1 team until five years ago. The team has tougher games ahead of them, but they've already beaten ranked opponents this season and it will be interesting to see if Penn State can qualify for its first ever Frozen Four in the spring. On top of that, the biggest name in the 2017 draft got back on the ice this weekend, so with all that in mind, let’s take a trip around the world of prospects.
Adam Fox, D (Calgary): With 19 points in his first 15 games with Harvard, Fox has been one of the great surprises of the NCAA season. To hit the ground running as a freshman while also taking classes at the most famous university in the world? Pretty impressive.
“It’s kinda surreal,” Fox said. “You’re not going to get a better education than at Harvard. Knowing the history of people who have gone there is something I take a lot of pride in. Playing hockey there is an honor and I’m happy to do it.”
Fox’s course load includes classes in writing, economics and another entitled “Understanding Darwinism.” Perhaps the 5-foot-10, 185-pounder can do an essay on the evolution of the defenseman, as his offensive hops are what make him just as a dangerous as the 6-foot-4 monsters of the past.
“From a young age I’ve always been able to handle and move the puck,” Fox said. “But obviously I’m a defenseman, so I still take pride defensively and shutting it down back there.”
Calgary landed Fox 66th overall in the draft this past summer and though players of his size are just now becoming more prominent in the elite ranks, it was hard to ignore the smarts and puck movement Fox was utilizing from the point for the U.S. National Team Development Program last season. Still, it’s stunning to see how well the kid has fared in the ECAC, which tends to be stocked with older, stronger collegians.
“The coaching staff has really helped,” Fox said. “Playing exhibition games against college teams last year with the NTDP helped prepare me for the competition and our forwards are really skilled up front, so getting the puck to them is definitely good for me.”
And good for any forward wearing the same jersey as the blueliner. Fox helped Team USA win gold at the world juniors and now he has Harvard off to a great start, with the Crimson ranked sixth in the nation.
In the Pipeline
Denis Gurianov, RW (Dallas): Gurianov was great at the world juniors, using his speed and skill to burn opponents. Now back in the AHL with Texas, the Russian teen is back at it. Just check out this highlight, which looks eerily similar to the overtime play he made to win bronze over Sweden.
Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, C (Boston): Coming into college, the only question about ‘JFK’ was whether he could be a top offensive threat; we knew he was a great two-way player. But with seven goals in his past four games, the Boston U. sophomore is now a point-per-game player and the Terriers are on fire.
Brett Murray, LW (Buffalo): Penn State, as I mentioned, is rolling. And the Nittany Lions got even bigger recently when Murray joined early from the USHL. The 6-foot-5 power forward was playing great for Youngstown and decided to take on a new challenge in college. Murray picked up an assist in his NCAA debut.
Christian Fischer, RW (Arizona): The AHL player of the week, Fischer has been excellent for the Tucson Roadrunners in his first pro season. The power forward has seven points in his past four games and is now a point-per-gamer, sitting second in team scoring overall.
2017 Draft Stars
Nolan Patrick, C – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL): It’s been a long time coming for Patrick, the consensus top prospect for 2017. The big, dominating center missed three months due to an undisclosed injury, but jumped right back in with a four-point night in his return against Kootenay. The best part? From the get-go, Patrick looked like he wanted to take over the game…and then he did.
Timothy Liljegren, D – Timra (Swe.): While Patrick was injured, Liljegren was loaned from Rogle in the SHL to the Allsvenskan, Sweden’s second-best circuit. While that sounds not-so-good, the highly-rated defenseman is playing big minutes for Timra, while still facing older, stronger competition. Scouts are getting a little nervous about his lack of production, however. This is already shaping up to be a very interesting draft year.
Micah Miller, C – Grand Rapids Thunderhawks (Minn. HS): With 38 points in 15 games, Miller is not messing around in high school. Fast, strong and hard-working, the St. Cloud State commit is just 5-foot-9, but don’t take him for granted or your team might get burned.
Conor Timmins, D – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL): The Hounds are red-hot and Timmins has been a great driver from the blueline. The puckmoving defenseman has 35 points in 43 games and has such great ability and patience when he’s controlling the offensive play.
Dynamic Duo: Ivan Chechovich and D’Artagnan Joly of Baie-Comeau are making it fun to watch the Drakkar this year. Chechovich, who leads the team in scoring, has great skill and vision, while Joly is a big dude who can move well and also has nice hands. Chechovich plays center and has a five-game point streak going, while Joly plays right wing and has four points in his past four games.
2018 Draft Star
Quinn Hughes, D – U.S. NTDP (USHL): His late birthday means the under-18 star will get picked a year later than most of his cohorts, but that’s just another season of development for scouts to drool over. Hughes has been described as a Kris Letang type of defenseman, with great puckhandling abilities. The Michigan commit leads all NTDP blueliners with 26 points in 37 games.
Calgary's Sean Monahan sporting the beautiful retro Flames jersey, but the jersey could be no more next season
Bad news for fans of the aesthetic side of hockey as the league is reportedly set to nix alternate jerseys for 2017-18 as part of the introduction of the Adidas line of jerseys.
Fans who enjoy jersey design and the unique looks teams can sport on a nightly basis won’t be thrilled to learn that the NHL will reportedly be doing away with alternate jerseys for next season.
That’s right. No more third jerseys will be in the mix next season, as Reebok waves goodbye to the NHL after 10 years as the league’s jersey designer and gives way for Adidas to come in and pick up where their subsidiary left off.
According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo, the league’s 30 teams — and soon to be 31 when the Vegas Golden Knights officially join the fray in 2017-18 — have been informed that in order to make “the initial implementation of new sweaters easier” teams will be allowed to only rock either a home or road sweater for the entire campaign. That’s a great number of alternates that will be retired at the end of the 2016-17.
The uniform database for this season at NHLUniforms.com shows the league is split almost entirely down the middle, with 17 teams rocking an alternate sweater and the remaining 13 without one for the current campaign. Most of the ‘Original Six’ is included in the group without alternates, with the Boston Bruins and the New York Rangers being the only two with a regular alternate as part of their game-day attire. Also included in the no-alternate category is the Arizona Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres, Dallas Stars, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets.
It’s an especially tough break for several of the league’s teams who’ve just recently introduced their alternates, too. Since the start of the 2015-16 season, the Bruins, Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers, New York Islanders, San Jose Sharks and Washington Capitals have introduced new alternates. Some of those — like the Ducks’ orange ‘Mighty Ducks’ throwback, Flames’ white ‘C’ and Capitals’ retro-style jersey — have become instant favorites.
That the league is leaving every team without an alternate is somewhat puzzling given that it’s a potential revenue stream that is being taken off the table, but before teams or fans go blaming the league or Adidas, it’s worth noting that this isn’t the first time alternates have been taken away.
During the 2006-07 season, there were 17 teams that had an alternate jersey in their repertoire, but that season the NHL was starting to prepare for the switch from CCM jerseys to the Reebok EDGE jersey system that has been the standard over the past decade. Come 2007-08, all of those alternates had been nixed, with each team down to just a road and home sweater. That said, some of the alternate designs that had been much beloved in the years leading up to the change made their way to the new look.
For instance, the Columbus Blue Jackets’ star and flag logo that they currently wear was the team’s alternate before the Reebok EDGE system took hold. The red and green Minnesota Wild jersey was also the alternate pre-2007-08. Meanwhile, the Vancouver Canucks took the blue and green color scheme from their ‘Stick and Rink’ alternate in 2006-07 and transposed it onto their home and road uniforms when the new style came into existence in 2007-08.
It's already been reported by SportsLogos.net's Chris Creamer that the Oilers will be adopting their orange alternate as their home jerseys for the upcoming campaign, and that could make way for other beloved alternates, such as the beautiful green and cream jersey worn by the Wild and old-school Flames look, to make the jump to every-game outfit come 2017-18. Maybe we even see the awesome retro Senators logo replace the current Spartan design.
And for jersey fans let down by the lack of alternates, there may be something else to get their juices flowing next season. Several jerseys are sure to get tweaks as Adidas takes over, but there were three teams who got major overhauls when Reebok replaced CCM: the Dallas Stars, San Jose Sharks and Washington Capitals. There’s potential for a similar scenario with the switch to Adidas in 2017-18.
If that’s not enough, though, those jersey lovers can almost take it to the bank that teams will have alternates again come 2018-19. After all, there was again 17 teams with a third jersey by the time the 2008-09 season rolled around, just one season after not a single team had an alternate in the rotation.
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The numbers released by the CHL would have you believe minimum wage for players would cripple some teams. But we need a lot more information.
In an effort to get out in front of the story and win the case in the court of public opinion, the Canadian Hockey League last night released some of the financial information it had previously been trying to keep from the prying eyes of everyone outside its inner circle. It’s a curious move to say the least. And when you look at the numbers, you get the sense that the CHL is cherry picking on the same level as an out-of-shape beer leaguer who constantly hangs out at the opponent’s blueline.
The CHL has crafted its message, complete with an expert opinion saying teams would have to consider ceasing operations if they had to pay players minimum wage, giving people just enough information to portray themselves as downtrodden philanthropists interested only in providing entertainment and helping young men realize their NHL dreams, without really telling us where the money trail actually leads. Well played.
For example, if we are to take the numbers of the CHL’s unaudited financial statements provided to an Alberta court for an upcoming lawsuit at face value, then we’re to believe that the Ontario and Western Leagues combined to generate revenues of $136.7 million in 2015, but cannot afford to pay roughly 850 of its employees minimum wage. The WHL claimed revenues of just over $80 million in 2015. The cost to pay the players minimum wage in that league would be about $300,000 per year per team for a total cost of about $6.6 million, which would amount to about 8.25 percent of total revenues.
What business in any part of the real world would be able to claim revenues of more than $136 million, then try to convince people that it couldn’t afford to pay 850 of its employees minimum wage? Welcome to the world of junior hockey where it seems no matter how much money a team makes, its expenses seem to rise at the same rate. How the heck are these people ever expected to make a go of it?
Let’s take the WHL as an example. According to the report done by the accounting firm KPMG, the league’s overall revenues in 2015 were higher in the five years between 2012 and 2016 than they were any other year, but somehow the league managed to lose more money that year than any other year. The numbers say overall league revenues were $80.2 million, with a pre-tax overall loss of just over $2 million. As far as expenses are concerned, $7.5 million went to advertising and promotion, $6.6 million to administration and a whopping $67.5 million to the ubiquitous “other operating expenses.” In fact, in 2015, other operating expenses increased almost $5 million from the previous year, then were cut by more than $6 million in 2016. Even though the WHL managed to trim $6 million in fat from other operating expenses in 2016, it posted a pre-tax profit of only $691,000.
So in order to get the entire picture, we’re really going to need to know what those “other operating expenses” are. And until we know them, we don’t know even close to the entire picture of whether the losses are real or a case of creative accounting. For example, has anyone stopped to ask how exactly the Erie Otters managed to lose $150,000 and be forced into bankruptcy while going to the OHL final and having one of the greatest players in junior hockey history in their lineup? Or how the people who purchased the team didn’t seem to mind forking over $10 million for a supposedly bankrupt, money losing team? It sure makes you wonder about the line in the CHL’s news release that said, “Goals around asset appreciation are lower/limited in the CHL versus other major sporting leagues.” It sure makes you wonder if that’s the case when the Sudbury Wolves can be purchased for $250,000 in the 1980s and sell for $11 million 30 years later, all the while appreciating by 4,400 percent. (And that’s for a team that generally underachieved, missing the playoffs nine of those seasons and one that plays in an antiquated building that needs to be replaced.) Franchise values and the fact that these teams are sold for many millions of dollars has to be part of the equation here.
The CHL earlier this year scoffed at a report the defense had done by a sports economist who had no access to its numbers because the league refused to provide them. That economist used economic modelling instead of creative accounting. Then the league releases a report from their sports economics expert that is based on financial records only it was allowed to see. Which one is more accurate? Well, it’s hoped we’ll find that out after the sides meet next week to determine whether the full financial picture can be made public, not just snippets of it.
Until then, a lot of this is white noise that should be taken with a mountain’s worth of salt.
Tomas Plekanec isn’t scoring quite like he used to and that’s an issue with the veteran carrying a $6-million cap hit. Meanwhile, the Wild might be forced to make a hard choice on the blueline with expansion looming.
After putting up 60 and 54 points over the last two seasons, Montreal Canadiens second-line center Tomas Plekanec's numbers are down considerably this season. With only 19 points in 42 games, the 34-year-old's on pace for a 37-point campaign. That would be his lowest in a non-lockout season since his 39-point effort in 2008-09.
That drop in Plekanec's production sparked some questions about his future in Montreal. On Saturday, Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos reported “there's a sense” he could be available at the March 1 trade deadline if his production doesn't improve.
Kypreos' colleague Elliotte Friedman, however, thinks that could be a difficult decision. He notes Plekanec remains Canadiens coach Michel Therrien's top defensive center, pointing out no one on the Habs has taken more defensive-zone faceoffs this season.
Even if the Canadiens opt to move Plekanec by the deadline, his contract is a tough sell. Though he only has one year remaining, the annual average value is $6 million. Not many teams will come calling for a declining center in his mid-thirties carrying that expensive salary-cap hit.
WILD MAY HAVE TO DEAL WITH LOST DEFENDER
The Minnesota Wild possess considerable depth on defense. However, they risk losing a blueliner in this summer's expansion draft.
As per expansion draft rules, veteran Ryan Suter's no-movement clause ensures he must be protected. Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon, Marco Scandella and Matt Dumba all lack movement clauses. Even if the Wild opted to protect the maximum of four defensemen, one of them could still be plucked away by the Vegas Golden Knights.
Rather than lose a defenseman for nothing to the expansion draft, there's some talk that Wild GM Chuck Fletcher might move one of those rearguards to bolster his depth at center. However, TSN's Pierre LeBrun reports Fletcher won't be moving a blueliner before the trade deadline.
Fletcher could be resigned to the fact he's going to lose a good young defenseman at the expansion draft. He will have a narrow window of opportunity to perhaps trade one of them before he has to submit his list of protected players before 5 p.m. ET on June 17.
UPTICK IN SCORING BENEFITS BRUINS, SPOONER
It's been over a month since Boston Bruins center Ryan Spooner last appeared in the trade rumor mill. In early December, there was some media trade chatter claiming the Bruins could listen to offers for the 24-year-old.
After netting a career-high 49 points in 2015-16, Spooner has only 21 points in 43 games this season. Since Dec. 12, his production has shown signs of improvement, netting 12 points in 15 games.
Despite that uptick in his offense, the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reported Sunday there's talk the Bruins could shop Spooner for a defenseman. His third-period benching during the Bruins' 4-3 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes won't quell the trade rumors.
Given the Bruins' limited secondary scoring, they could hang onto Spooner for the remainder of the season. If his production keeps improving, he could provide the Bruins with vital offensive depth in their quest for a playoff berth.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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